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Farming

Wales ‘risks hundreds of sustainable firms’ by scrapping organic farming support

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has come under fire for its plans to withdraw support for organic farming, posing an “existential threat” to hundreds of sustainable food and farming businesses.

In a post-Brexit overhaul of farm support intended to bolster sustainable farming, £3.1 million of support is being withdrawn from Wales’ nature-friendly farming pioneers – according to the Welsh Organic Forum.

Funding that organic farmers currently receive for delivering environmental benefits is due to end at the end of 2023, and the interim Agri-Environment Scheme for 2024 has no provision to replicate this support.

When farmers are already struggling with rising costs and low farm gate prices due to the cost-of-living crisis, the forum has warned the Welsh First Minister that the move could put hundreds of organic businesses at risk of collapse.

They say it will throw Wales behind England, Scotland, and other EU countries where organic farming is being recognised and supported – and with 50% more wildlife and less energy used on organic farms, the decision is also at odds with the Welsh government’s climate and nature goals.

Open letter to the First Minister

An open letter to the First Minister Mark Drakeford, signed by the Welsh Organic Forum and alarmed businesses and organisations, said: “We are shocked that the Welsh Government looks set to reject a globally recognised beacon of sustainable farming. A withdrawal of support for organic farming will have serious economic and environmental consequences in Wales.

“The decision poses an existential risk to the Welsh food and farming sector’s ability to deliver to our climate, nature and food security obligations. It is likely to precipitate a mass exodus of organic farmers, inflicting long lasting damage on the sector.”

For decades Wales has led the UK in the development of the organic farming movement – Wales currently has the highest proportion of land area certified as organic in the UK.

Scotland is aiming to double its organic farmland by 2030, while the EU is aiming for 25% of all land to be organic by the same deadline. Westminster has committed to delivering an organic standard next year in its new Environmental Land Management Scheme, and to maintaining current funding for organic.

And despite the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic, the organic market in the UK has seen growth for 11 consecutive years.

The forum points out that other nations would be “more than happy to supply our markets” – albeit with risk and disruption to UK businesses who currently rely on Welsh organic produce.

Decades of investment set to be squandered

Welsh organic dairy farmer Haydn Evans, who is chair of the Welsh Organic Forum and Soil Association Cymru’s Head of Farming, said: “It is astounding that the Welsh Government is considering such a short-sighted cost saving exercise when organic farmers have been leading the way in sustainable farming for decades. Decades of the government’s own investment in healthy soils, nature-rich farms and pioneering food businesses now looks set to squandered.

“It’s simply irrational for ministers to turn their back on organic farming in Wales when we only have a few years to turn the tide on catastrophic climate change and nature loss. We urge the Welsh Government to consider the long-term costs to all of us if we lose this important sector that is delivering so much good for wildlife, people, and planet.”

Patrick Holden, Welsh organic dairy farmer and chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said: “As one of Wales’s longest established organic farmers, having just celebrated our 50th anniversary of farming using organic principles and practices, I believe that the decision to withdraw support payments will inflict long-term damage, not just on the organic sector but on Welsh agricultural community as a whole. I suspect that the view taken by the minister, namely “don’t let the best be the enemy of the good” although no doubt well-intentioned, did not take account of the fact that for the last couple of years, organic producers have been really struggling. This decision may represent the final straw for a number of small family dairy farms”.

The forum has called for an urgent meeting with Welsh Government, offering to work with Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths to secure a future for organic to renew their previous longstanding commitment to the sector.

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in search for county’s top progressive farmers

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IF you farm in Pembrokeshire and can demonstrate your farm’s use of the latest technological methods to promote progressive, sustainable agriculture then the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society encourage you to enter the prestigious Baron de Rutzen Award.

Adam Thorne, Pembrokeshire County Show President, said, “We are looking for local Pembrokeshire farmers, under the age of 45, who can demonstrate their farm’s use of the latest technological methods to promote progressive, sustainable agriculture. They also need to show consideration for the environment and habitat sensitivity on their farm as well as present an aesthetically pleasing example of farming in the county. The competition welcomes all livestock and arable sectors to take part.”

Last year’s winners of the Award were Mark and Caroline Davies of Little Newcastle, Haverfordwest. They milk 230 pedigree Holsteins through a fully automated system. They rear their own replacements and also have a small beef enterprise. The farm is all grassland and they follow a strict reseeding and liming policy to optimise the yield from their multi-cut silage system. The couple place significant emphasis on animal health, husbandry and breeding to maximise the efficiency of their system. 

Baron John Fredrick De Rutzen was President of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in 1936 and the Baron de Rutzen Trophy was produced in his memory. The third Baron served in the Welsh Guards and tragically died, aged 36, in 1944.   

This year’s entrants must be fully practising farmers within the county of Pembrokeshire and were under the age of 45 years on 1 January 2024. Entries can either be by nomination or direct application online on the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society website. Click here to apply:  Baron de Rutzen Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (pembsshow.org)

The closing date for nominations and applications is at noon on Wednesday, 29 May 2024.

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society elect new president

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ARABLE and beef farmer, Adam Thorne, has been unanimously elected to become the new President of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society for the year ahead. Adam is the third generation of his family to hold the position.

During the Annual General Meeting of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, held last week on the Pembrokeshire Showground, Mr Tim John and his wife Margaret John were also voted in as Presidents elect.

Adam Thorne has had a long association with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society. After visiting the show as a toddler, then helping show the family’s pedigree Herefords, his uncle got him into helping him with stewarding in his early teens. From there he progressed to being a Steward with his own section, Commercial Cattle, and then also the Butcher’s Lambs section.

From stewarding, Adam became involved with committee work, starting as an Executive and then on to the former Finance and General Purposes Committee. He has been Chairman of the Estates Committee for 12 years and is now a Board member and a Trustee.

Adam said, “I am proud of my long association with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society. I am the third generation to now be President, following my late grandfather, Walter Thorne, my father, Robert Thorne and more recently my uncle, George Thorne. I am looking forward to my year in the prestigious position.”

Away from his work with the society, Adam runs the family’s arable and beef farm in Robeston West, Milford Haven. He has been heavily involved with Tiers Cross YFC from an early age, having been Club Secretary twice and Chairman. He has also sat on Pembrokeshire County YFC Committees and the Wales YFC Rural Affairs Committee. 

The 2024 Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society officeholders, announced at the AGM, include Miss Ffion Edwards who was awarded the role of Ambassador at last year’s show. Ffion, a nurse from Maenclochog, has enjoyed many years of attending the county show and believes that there are so many good elements to it. Ffion has been a member of Llysyfran YFC for 15 years and enjoys every aspect of young farmers – trying new experiences, competing and travelling to name a few. Mrs Nicola Owen was also elected as the Honorary Treasurer.   

Brian Jones, the outgoing Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society President, took the opportunity to thank everyone who had helped and supported him throughout his presidency. During his year as President, Brian and his wife Helen, raised a tremendous amount of money for various charities including the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, RABI, Tir Dewi and the DPJ Foundation. Brian also gave his assurances that Castell Howell will continue to sponsor the Food Hall for future years.

Pembrokeshire County Show, the largest county agricultural show in Wales, will be held over two days again this summer on 14 and 15 August. Everyone is invited to attend the celebration of rural life in the county.

Pictured (left to right): Ffion Edwards the Ambassador for 2024; Adam Thorne, President; Margaret and Tim John, the Presidents Elect.

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£1,000 bursary award available to Pembrokeshire agricultural students

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PEMBROKESHIRE Agricultural Society’s £1,000 Bursary Award is now open for applications from students studying agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, food technology, forestry or other subjects allied to agriculture.

The Student Bursary Award 2024 is available to students, from Pembrokeshire, who are currently studying or have been accepted to start their studies. They can apply for this financial support to assist with their chosen college or career path.

Last year’s winner of the award was Lottie Wilson from Hayscastle. Lottie was studying agriculture at the University of Nottingham when she applied for the bursary. When she is at home she is a general dairy farm worker as well as a lambing hand and a calving beef herd assistant. In 2021 she was the top agriculture student at Hartpury College.

Robert James, Chairman of the Society’s Bursary Committee said, “I would urge all Pembrokeshire students who study subjects that are clearly aligned to agriculture to apply for this bursary as it won’t only assist with your studies but will also give you great experiences such as undertaking an interview which is a key employment skill. It will also assist in your future career within the agriculture industry.”

“A panel of independent judges will draw up a short list of candidates who will be interviewed and the winning candidate will be asked to give a short presentation at a future meeting of the society’s show council.

“The standard of applications has always been exceptional which gives a lot of heart that there are a lot of very talented young people in our community. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s bursary and hearing from the younger generation.”  

Qualifying students must not have won the student bursary on a previous occasion, the applicant must be studying or has been accepted to study agriculture or allied subjects at a UK college or university at A-Level or higher and the applicant’s family home must be in Pembrokeshire.

The bursary is tax free and will be awarded to the student who, in the opinion of the panel of judges, has submitted the best dissertation on how the bursary will assist them to complete their course of study.

Further details and the entry form can be found online: Student Bursary Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (pembsshow.org)  or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is noon on Monday, 1 July 2024.

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